Letter to My Unger Tom

My good unger Tom,

I received the news on Sunday morning—a peculiarly sunny, warm mid-November morning I will not soon forget.

It was clear where I had to be after getting the message about your untimely passing: the Armenian Weekly offices at the Hairenik building in Watertown, where we first met in person. Though I had seen your coverage of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Olympic Games over the years and had several conversations over the telephone, it was here last April that I had the pleasure of meeting you face to face for the first time.

‘As I shuffled through the pages and was transported to the different decades you covered, I stumbled across something special—your very first column for the Weekly.’

Soon enough I found myself scouring through the bound, yellowed pages of the back issues of the Armenian Weekly.

Your presence in those pages—through your columns, articles, and photographs—was one of the few constants in the past fifty years of the nearly century-old publication.

As I shuffled through the pages and was transported to the different decades you covered, I stumbled across something special—your very first column for the Weekly.

You begin your first “Poor Tom’s Almanac” with a Byron quote that could not be more fitting for your outlook during your illustrious career that followed.

“Laugh at all the things,
Great and small things,
Sick or well, at sea or shore,
Let’s laugh!
Who the devil cares for more.”

Following the quote, you open by laying out your motto in what you call “life’s game:”

“I try to make every day merrier than the last.”

You stuck to these words until the very end, unger, and I truly admire you for that.

I admire the faith, conviction, and courage you displayed; not only in your latest battle, but over the years—in every activity you undertook.

From the dedication to your craft and your years of service to the Armenian Weekly, to serving as an Armenian teacher for decades, to being such a strong advocate for our collective cause… From your love of racquetball, to the success of your insightful book, and even finally joining that church choir—you did it all with devotion and class through and through.

You did it all with that positive spirit you mentioned in your first column 46 years ago.

And for that, I envy you—բարի նախանձ (bari nakhandz [virtuous envy]). I wish to one day have that same faith, conviction, and hope you so effortlessly displayed throughout your exemplary life.

As I read through your first column and came to the concluding sentence, I smiled to myself and remembered your unmatched wit. For only you could have pulled it off so well, unger.

Only you could have ended your first column—dated Oct. 22, 1970—with the same line that you began your last.

“So, as the dog said when he bit his tail, ‘This must be the end!’”

Yes. In true Tom fashion, you pulled it off. Bravo.

But know well that this is not the end, unger.

We may all be mortals, but I am certain that your legacy will live on for generations. For young dreamers such as myself look to you—and others like you—as sources of inspiration and as examples, օրինակելի (orinakeli [exemplary]) unger.

Հողը թեթեւ գայ, ընկեր. (Hoghuh tetev gah, unger [May the earth lay softly, comrade])

You’ve done well.
In admiration, always,

Rupen Janbazian
Nov. 14, 2016


After a courageous battle with liver cancer, longtime Armenian Weekly columnist Tom Vartabedian passed away on the night of Nov. 12. 

Vartabedian’s name is no stranger to the pages of the Armenian Weekly—he has volunteered his services as a columnist and correspondent with the paper for nearly a half century. His countless articles have appeared in several Armenian and non-Armenian publications over the years, covering everything from community events and initiatives, to interesting individuals and their stories from both Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora. For decades, readers looked forward to his weekly “Poor Tom’s Almanac” column, which has been published for 46 consecutive years, since 1970.

The Armenian Weekly will highlight Vartabedian’s work and legacy in the coming weeks.

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: Letter to My Unger Tom

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